The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

amples of this attitude include Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, where the interna- tional community, led by the African Union, the United States and France, did a remarkable job of bringing po- tentially catastrophic crises to a swift conclusion using principally diplomatic means. But except for a few token in- dividuals, those who committed crimes during these crises remain free to do so again. Having a credible foreign policy means not just prevention and resolu- tion of conflict, but prevention of a re- currence. The hard work shouldn’t stop when a catastrophe has been averted; that’s when it should really begin. Hope that things will turn out well is never an effective basis for strat- egy or policy. Doing the Right Thing My own conversion to the cause of long-term policymaking began in 1999 when I was head of the Foreign Of- fice’s Maghreb Section. No one in a senior diplomatic role really cared about the Maghreb then. It was pre- 9/11, the Israel-Palestine peace talks were all that mattered, and I was left to play around with policy, like a kid with a new toy. One day, an Algerian contact based in London (who is now a prominent regional commentator), suggested I meet Rached Ghannouchi, the Lon- don-based leader of the Tunisian Is- lamist movement, Ennahda (Renaiss- ance). I was new to the region, still rel- atively inexperienced and not really sure what an Islamist was. But since I thought it was my job to listen to differ- ent opinions, and I knew that meeting Ghannouchi would annoy the Tunisian ambassador to London, I readily agreed. There began a great conversa- tion that taught me (again) not to judge books by other people’s covers. Over time, I saw how Tunisian President Ben Ali’s regime had lied about Ghannouchi to suit its own agenda. But diplomats don’t have to take lies seriously. They can take the time to understand those they might otherwise label as enemies, or unreli- able, when they are simply different. So we see now that Ghannouchi’s party was already the “legitimate” rep- resentative of the Tunisian people long before Ben Ali ran away. Yet while it is now the leading moderate Islamist movement in the world, it is also a frag- ile coalition—one we cannot afford to let fail. Happily, we can see cases where U.S. foreign policy has begun a slow but welcome shift to long-term per- spectives and a focus on legitimacy. Some are not entirely new; despite in- consistencies and wobbles over the years, Washington’s policy toward Sudan and Zimbabwe has had a long- term focus and a generally positive im- pact. Without it, we would not have had the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, ending a war that killed millions. And in Zim- babwe, we may finally be witnessing the last months of one of the conti- nent’s genuinely malevolent regimes, in part due to sustained international pressure. Similarly, American policy on Nige- ria is at last being driven by efforts to fix the long-term governance failure that led to oil bunkering and Islamist terrorism, rather than just treating these symptoms. And in Rwanda, guilt over the West’s failure to stop the 1994 genocide has been replaced by a more nuanced U.S. understanding of the re- pressive Rwandan Popular Front and the threat it poses to peace, human rights and stability throughout the re- gion. I live in hope of seeing more exam- ples of enlightened U.S. policy toward other African dictatorships, as well as regimes in the Middle East and Cen- tral Asia. As in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the de facto dictatorships of An- gola, Uganda and Ethiopia — with their occasional “election-like events,” as one U.S. diplomat elegantly put it — are living on borrowed time. Pursuing a more enlightened for- eign policy, focused on bolstering le- gitimacy and minimizing the long-term risks posed by repressive autocracies, can help prevent more failed states and tackle the roots of extremism. And, even better, it is the right thing to do. J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 45 In some cases, U.S. foreign policy has begun a welcome shift to long-term perspectives and a focus on legitimacy. Dear Readers: In order to produce a high- quality product, the FSJ depends on the revenue it earns from advertising. You can help with this. Please let us know the names of companies that have provided good service to you — a hotel, insurance company, auto dealership, or other concern. A referral from our readers is the best entrée! You Are Our Eyes & Ears! Ed Miltenberger Advertising & Circulation Manager Tel: (202) 944-5507 E-mail: